Rainbow Beach is popular not only as a gateway to the magical Fraser Island, but also for its beautiful beaches, sand dunes, freshwater lakes and four-wheel drive beach adventures. On the way in, we already had a glimpse of some of the refreshing swimming stops, as we paddled at Seary Creek (a much-needed break after the long, hot drive).
We arrived in the sleepy town of Rainbow Beach on Thursday afternoon and asked to park our van at Dingos Hostel, which they did for $10 per person, per night. This included a free breakfast, $6 dinner deal, hot shower, toilets and access to all the hostel facilities, including a swimming pool – a great deal compared to some of the overpriced caravan parks we have encountered along the way!
We spent the afternoon at Peterpans Adventure Travel, investigating the best deals for activities up the North coast of Queensland. It is always cheaper if you book a number of open-dated activities through an agency like this, as they can find the best discounts. They will quote you a price and you can then investigate other travel agencies, to see if you can find anything of better value.
In my experience, Peterpans Adventure Travel has generally offered the best prices for these kinds of activities. Backpackers World Travel is also a good option for tours and are equally as competitive for prices. We walked away with a three-day Fraser Island Tour, a day sailing on the Whitsunday Islands and a two day diving trip on the Great Barrier Reef, off Cairns. Our Fraser Island tour starts on Monday and I cannot wait to get back on that beautiful island of sand!
But first, time to explore Rainbow Beach. This town gets its name from the multitude of coloured sands found on the sand dunes in this area. The beach itself offers great surfing and swimming, with lifeguards at the ready if things get rough. We took advantage of the surf nearly every morning of our stay!
The main street in town is full of shops and cafes. You can get money out from the Post Office at no charge and there are a number of different hostels in which you could stay. On my last trip, I stayed at Fraser on Rainbow, so we decided on Dingos Hostel this time, which is right next door. They are much the same, although Fraser on Rainbow had a better food menu. Dingos did, however, offer a cheap meal deal – burger, chips and a pint of beer or cider for $10. Despite the fact that hostels can be rather dirty and loud, with little privacy, you can save a lot on your backpacking adventure by staying in them. Plus, they are an excellent way to make new friends and socialise. We met some nice Swiss, Dutch and American travellers on our first night, along with many other travellers as the days went on!
We spent quite a few mornings at the local Cafe Jilarty At Rainbow, enjoying their delicious coffee served in pretty, colourful mugs. They also do amazing banana smoothies and tasty pizzas, served up on big wooden boards. The wifi here is fairly strong, so you can easily spend a few hours writing or web-browsing as you graze on their amazing food! It was hard to go past this cafe, though we did decide to try the Rainbow Beach Fruit for lunch one day, feasting on extremely full cheese and salad wraps and freshly squeezed juices – an excellent cheaper option.
Each afternoon, the hostel offered a free tour up to the Carlo Sand Blow, located in the Sandy Cape National Park. We walked for about 20 minutes before arriving at these expansive dunes, where magnificent ocean views show off all the different colours of sand (white, golden, red, brown, black – not quite the colours of the rainbow but still an excellent variety). We took our body boards up to the highest point and took off! It was loads of fun, aside from the sand that blows in your face as you rocket down the dune.
After spending many relaxing days here at Rainbow Beach and returning from a wonderful tour on Fraser Island (which I will cover in a later post), we decided to explore further afield, at Double Island Point. We were hesitant to use our van on the sand, despite the fact that it is a four-wheel drive. But, after getting encouraging advice from our tour guides, we decided to risk it. To go to Double Island Point, you need to get a Vehicle Access Permit, which you can obtain very easily from the Information Centre in town (it costs $29.95 for a week). You also need to be aware of the tides, as you can only drive around the point on low tide. After doing our research, we set off at 6 am.
Of course, the first thing that happened as we ventured into the sand was getting bogged! It was disheartening at first, as we couldn’t reverse out of it, nor did the low range gears work on this occasion. We got the shovel out and started digging, but then, to our luck, one of the sand plough men drove down to help us out. He towed us to firmer sand and encouraged us on our way. If it weren’t for this lovely man, we would have turned around and gone back to Rainbow Beach. So, we were very happy, as we drove all the way around to Double Island Point, without a hitch. As there were no cars about in the morning, we were making fresh tracks in the sand and enjoying the sun as it rose slowly into the sky. It is such a free feeling, driving along a wide open beach with nobody around.
We stopped at the point for a surf and the waves broke gently, as we paddled out. The morning was perfect for learners, as the waves were small and the water was still relatively shallow. We had fun paddling in amongst the schools of fish and riding lots of waves in. It is so beautiful here, with the colourful sands forming steep slopes off the beach, ideal for sand-boarding. The water is clear blue and fades from light to dark as you get deeper. Schools of flying fish sparkle in the sunlight as they dart over the water. Later on, a surf school and a group of kayakers joined us, before disappearing around the point to look for dolphins and sea turtles.
After a hearty breakfast of beans on toast, we walked up to Double Island Point Lighthouse, which stands tall on the hill, overlooking the magical waters, where you can often spot whales, dolphins, sting rays and turtles. You can also look down over Teewah Beach, where a number of ships have been washed to the shore in years gone by.
Next, we were to try and take our vehicle overland to get to Freshwater Lake campsite. However, things took a turn for the worse, as a spring fell out underneath our vehicle. Some friendly four-wheel drivers stops to help us reattach it, before moving on. However, they warned us that it did get very soft as you get to the next beach. Sure enough, when we rounded the corner, the sand became very soft and deep. There was, unfortunately, no way we would make it (without being towed). And, with our vehicle troubles earlier on, we decided not to risk it.
Instead, we made our way back to Double Island Point, put up the tarp for some relief from the midday sun and settled into a lazy afternoon of swimming, surfing, writing and relaxation. We caught some of the best waves, riding them for the longest time ever! Low tide would return at about 6.30pm, so we would be able to make it back to Rainbow Beach before dark. It was an adventurous day and our van did very well to survive all the obstacles in his way. He would be treated to a car wash and a trip to the garage the following day to check that everything was in order! We enjoyed Double Island Point so much that we returned for a total of three mornings. By the time we finally left, I was beginning to ride along the waves properly!
Our final adventure was to Poona Lake, located in the Great Sandy National Park. It takes about half an hour to walk the 2.1 km path through lush, green rainforest, where strangler figs tower into the canopy and the crickets shout their deafening cries. The walk departs from Bymien Picnic Area and is well sign-posted. In no time at all, you arrive at Poona Lake, which is beautiful for a swim on a hot day.
We had such a lovely time here at Rainbow Beach – a total of 12 days. There is plenty to do, despite the small size of the town. If you do visit, I would highly recommend hiring a four-wheel drive, so you can explore all the off-road tracks and sandy beaches at your leisure. Next stop, 1770!